Sep 22, 2015

Chronograph Saga 2 – How It Works

Tags: Chronograph, Column-wheel, Command system, History, Horizontal clutch, Louis Nardin, Mikrograph, Vertical clutch

In our last report we introduced the chronograph. Now, let’s have a look at how it works. The first point concerns controlling the functions. To to do, watchmakers invented pushers to start, stop, and reset the chronograph, and also to control the additional features on more complex versions like the split-seconds chronograph. In essence, the pushers are the exterior components of a whole system of commands, which makes them crucial as they govern the link between the pushers and the functions. The operating system can be imagined as the brain of the chronograph: the simplest ones use cams, which are parts designed to transmit and adapt information. The column wheel system constitutes a complex version of the chronograph’s operating system.

The chronograph is one of the two most complex complications that work on demand (as opposed to continuously like others such as the date do). Like the other on-demand complication – the minute repeater, which rings the time – the chronograph must be started and stopped. In a technical sense, this means that all the components belonging to the function are inactive by default. They begin working once the function is connected to the main movement that delivers the energy. This happens when the user pushes the start/stop button. At this moment, a connection between those two entities is made thanks to what is called a clutch. Throughout time, watchmakers developed two main kinds of clutches to activate the chronograph. The horizontal clutch is characterized by a wheel moving laterally to make contact with another wheel that belongs to the movement. The second one is the vertical clutch. Here, all the components are positioned on the same axis, including a disc controlled by a circular spring. The concept of the vertical clutch is thus different from the clear on/off system of the horizontal clutch. Indeed, the vertical clutch is always active, though the function only starts when the disc is pushed against the wheel of the chronograph. At this moment, it is released by a control system and the spring maintains the pressure against the chronograph wheel. To stop it, the control system pushes back the disc that continues to turn as it becomes part of the main movement.

The precision of a chronograph depends on various factors, but above all it depends on the movement, where the frequency of the caliber has a strong impact. The higher it is, the most precise the measure will be. For this reason the El Primero chronograph from Zenith is a reference on the market. It is the only one that is available at a larger scale with a precision of one-tenthof a second to beat at 5Hz. Usually, the frequency of a chronograph ranges between 3 and 4Hz. But in the end, the most unstable and unpredictable factor is the human itself. It takes 0.3 second for a man to react and press a chronograph’s pusher.

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  • steel member

    steel member

    black moon

    Jun 13, 2018

  • Gian Paolo Bernardo

    Gian Paolo Bernardo

    Nice and informative videos! But I think the script was misread for 10Hz at around 1:41 of the video. 10Hz = 20 beats per second, = 72,000 beats per hour... not "22,000 beats per hour" as mentioned in the video. "72" might have been misread as "22".

    Jul 29, 2017

  • Paul Ruppert

    Paul Ruppert

    Excellent explanation of highly complex movements and pieces of these eternity machines. They seduce man into thinking he commands time by measuring it as it flies by! ;)

    Mar 31, 2017

  • AbstractMan23


    Great, informative and very interesting video. Thanks! 👍🏻🔢✅

    Mar 09, 2017

  • Jared Coffin

    Jared Coffin

    Super irritating narration style. Editing is too fast. No time to absorb anything being said or shown.

    Jan 16, 2017

  • Милый котенок^^

    Милый котенок^^

    заебала твоя рожа

    Jan 09, 2017

  • Beeny Roy

    Beeny Roy

    I love this channel, awesome and informative content. 👌 thanks people

    Nov 28, 2016

  • benjouz


    Bien le bonjour ! Très bonne série de vidéos ! Juste une précision : à 1:50 : 10 Hz = 10 battements par secondes donc x3'600 cela donne 36'000 par heure non ? (et non 22'000)

    Sep 25, 2015

  • jclto


    I know this is far-fetched but it just occurred to me, is Louis somehow related to the Ulysse Nardin family?

    Sep 24, 2015

  • wall lauWei

    wall lauWei

    You guys have been very helpful. Love your work

    Sep 24, 2015

  • Abhishek Srivastava

    Abhishek Srivastava

    Amazing series from a Great Channel

    Sep 23, 2015

  • SoCalFreelance


    I'm learning so much!! Love it! I can now ask a watchmaker what type of clutch their chronograph uses and sound like a seasoned watch connoisseur.

    Sep 23, 2015

  • User


    no mention of the spring drive chronograph? interesting lol

    Sep 23, 2015

  • Lazar Coco

    Lazar Coco

    Im not a chronograph collector come this saga also with tourbillion, worltimer, diver, dead second etc ? :)

    Sep 22, 2015

  • yiannis merianos

    yiannis merianos

    informative! as always😀

    Sep 22, 2015

  • Dave Durant

    Dave Durant

    So far, I really like this series. Thanks!

    Sep 22, 2015

  • Domenico Alberto Ghio

    Domenico Alberto Ghio

    keep up the good work!

    Sep 22, 2015

  • Catorce


    Fantastic series, please upload more!

    Sep 22, 2015

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